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Canada to introduce tailored student visa advice training

The Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) has proposed plans to introduce new training for immigration advisors that is specific to education. The proposed new credential should ease financial pressures for education institutions as they work to comply with Bill C-35: legislation that means as of last year only registered consultants are allowed to advise international students on immigration issues.

Hafeeza Bassirullah , Director of Education at the ICCRC, speaks at a panel discussion on the changing roles of ISAs at CBIE's annual conference.

"Although there is a lot of useful information regarding immigration in RCIC training, cultural transition is not integral to the training"

Under the legislation, anyone offering immigration advice to students – including existing International Student Advisors (ISA) at a university – must undergo training covering a broad range of immigration issues to qualify as a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC).

“It does change the image of our office as a welcoming space for students”

The proposed new Regulated International Student Immigration Advisor (RISIA) role would be more specialised, and is being introduced partly on the basis that RCICs who are also ISAs spend less than 20% of their time on immigration related matters, according to the ICCRC.

Education institutions are in the process of adapting their student advising practices to comply with the legislation, and many have been forced to radically change the services and resources they have available.

Many, like the University of Calgary, have had to remove websites and pamphlets offering information to students about their study permits, work rights or post-study visa options.

Some universities have opted to have their current ISAs trained as RCICs, while others are working with outside contracters either as an alternative or as an interim measure.

The University of British Columbia (UBC) has had all of its ISAs who advise students on immigration trained as RCICs, moving on from a model whereby students first saw a university ISA before being referred to an RCIC.

This is seen as a preferred option by many institutions, as RCICs may not have the breadth of knowledge that all ISAs have on academic or personal issues that may affect students.

“We have always taken a more holistic approach to student advising,” Jean Lomas, an ISA at Simon Fraser University (SFU) commented during a panel discussion at the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE)’s national conference this month. “Although there is a lot of useful information regarding immigration in RCIC training, cultural transition is not integral to the training.”

She added that, although the university has never turned away a student in need of advice, having to make appointments to see an RCIC rather than being able to simply drop into the international office with a query “does change the image of our office as a welcoming space for students”.

However, both hiring outside contracters and training in-house RCICs can be expensive; the cost of training, exam and insurance costs can “easily” amount to upwards of $7,000, Philipp Reichert, an ISA at UBC, said.

Another potential barrier is that RCICs must be Canadian citizens, permanent residents or registered Indians, which could exclude international students who want to go on to work in a university’s international office.

However, dialogue between the sector and the ICCRC is continuing, and the proposed new RISIA credential appears likely to serve the education sector more effectively.

Hafeeza Bassirullah, Director of Education at the ICCRC, assured CBIE attendees that the council is listening to industry needs and outlined a number of RISIA requirements from which the education sector, including universities, will be exempt if proposals are approved in a vote next week, such as having a client account and a specified file management system.

“By all accounts it seems it will [the cost of training a RISIA] will be lower; we recognise the scope of practices is more specialised than a RCIC,” Bassirullah added.

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